Royal Ascot - At The Races

Royal Ascot Long-Range Forecasts

    Gary Nutting has worked his way through some of the key markets at the Royal Meeting and has wrapped up his ante-post bets with two selections, one in the Ribblesdale Stakes and another in the Queen's Vase.

Published 19/06 - no further ante-post bets

Having opposed John Gosden’s apparent first string with a stablemate in the Jersey, fingers crossed I’m not storing up trouble for myself by doing likewise in the Ribblesdale Stakes.

Oaks fifth Coronet, the provisional mount of Frankie Dettori, is shortest of the stable’s four entries left in but at twice the price I prefer the chance of ASTRONOMY’S CHOICE.

Winner of a fast-ground Newmarket maiden last autumn, the selection fluffed her lines at odds-on when only third in the Pretty Polly on her reappearance, after which Gosden said he would save her for this.

Against better opposition she didn’t handle the dip that well - hence the trainer’s reluctance about Epsom - but this track and the extra quarter-mile look sure to suit a filly who remains high in the pecking order at her Oaks-winning yard (still holds an entry in the Irish equivalent).

Andrew Balding had a definite Royal Ascot target in mind for one of his horses beaten in a spring Classic trial - COUNT OCTAVE, who is interesting at double-figure odds for the Queen’s Vase.

A promising third on his only 2yo start at Goodwood last backend, the Frankel colt was not hard pressed to land a Wolverhampton maiden on his reappearance and finished only four lengths adrift of subsequent Derby winner Wings Of Eagles in the Chester Vase.

Held up in rear like the runner-up that day, Count Octave stayed on nicely in the closing stages in a race that was run to suit those ridden more prominently, notably winner Venice Beach under Ryan Moore.

Balding had already said this race, rather than Epsom, was on his mind so that was a decent trial effort in the circumstances and the step up to 1m6f could bring significant improvement given the stamina in his pedigree.

Published 16/06

John Gosden began the season with French Guineas aspirations for CHESSMAN and the colt ought to be unbeaten after two unlucky handicap defeats this year, so he may be worth backing at decent odds for the Jersey Stakes.

The son of Acclamation looked an above-average prospect after scything through the field to win on his debut at Kempton last backend and it’s not his fault he has failed to add to that success.

Frankie Dettori and Robert Tart have both given him over-confident rides at very short prices, the upshot of which he's suffered narrow defeats in the hot 7f handicap at Newbury’s spring meeting and again when dropped in grade at Haydock last time.

On both occasions, it was not hard to argue that Chessman shaped like the best horse in the race and it’s perhaps significant that Golden is now prepared to sacrifice a mark of 93 to take on much higher-rated opponents in Wednesday’s Group 3 opener.

A July Cup entry would appear to confirm the trainer still holds him in high regard, while the booking of Andrea Atzeni is a further plus given that Dettori is understandably sticking with Classic form in the shape of 1000 Guineas third Daban.

However, the filly has a 3lb penalty to contend with as a result of her Nell Gwyn win and at five times the price, I’d rather take a chance with her ‘lesser-fancied’ stablemate.

Published 15/06 

ENNAADD is an interesting contender for the Queen Anne Stakes - hugely progressive on the all-weather yet still unexposed on turf - and rates a bit of value at big odds.

Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni have long held him in the highest esteem - the jockey mentioned a possible Guineas tilt after he won a conditions event at Kempton early last season, while the trainer keeps giving him Group 1 entries.

On the face of it he's got a sizeable leap to make, having yet to contest a Group race of any kind, but as his entries in this, the Eclipse and the Sussex suggest (had also been in the Lockinge until the ground went against him), he’s probably open to plenty of improvement in this sphere.

His narrow defeat under a penalty to Tabarrak over course and distance last month was a decent enough effort considering the only previous time he’d run on turf was on his debut in a soft-ground maiden at Windsor two seasons ago.

The winner, himself smart and progressive with three wins and four seconds from seven starts, got first run that day and Ennaadd can be expected to step forward from that now he’s got his eye back in on turf.

With six-year-olds Lightning Spear and Mutakayyef closest to odds-on shot Ribchester in the betting - the first-named, like the selection, graduated from handicaps at the corresponding stage of his career - the door may be open for a younger horse to gatecrash the party.

Published 13/06

NEXT STAGE shapes like a colt with plenty more to offer and can prove the point by running a big race in the Royal Hunt Cup.

Saeed Bin Suroor’s lightly-raced 4yo boasts a sharply progressive profile and high-class pedigree that suggests he’ll be moving into Group company once his handicapping days are over.

The son of Dubawi is still learning his trade - he wandered around in the dip when scoring off 90 at the Craven meeting and again showed signs of greenness as the rallying Playful Sound appeared to outstay him over nine furlongs on 2000 Guineas day.

However he travelled like a dream for much of that contest and although he’s since been raised another 4lb to 100, it’s not hard to see him take another step forward with the drop back to a strongly-run mile looking sure to suit.

Godolphin’s runners in top handicaps are invariably worth a second look and unlike those dropping down from Group class, Next Stage has his future very much in front of him and remains one to follow despite that latest display lacking a clear form boost at the time of writing.